Colorado, you cruel and beautiful beast. 

I’m nearly out of Colorado and I am running late. It’s hard to chastise myself too hard about this as, had I not taken exactly the course of action and days off that I did, I would have hit the snow too early and either had some massive mishap or had to retreat and skip some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever walked through. This seems like a good deal to me, even if it does mean potentially getting snowed on in Montana. 

The last few weeks have been breathtaking, so much so I would actually gladly turn around right now and walk them in the other direction. The landscape, the sky, the rivers, the storms and the trail all seem to have been amped up to insane proportions – everything just got a whole lot bigger. From the moment we separated from the Colorado Trail, a 484 mile route from Denver to Durango, this has been the case.  Glorious, green mountain ridges undulate and stretch in every direction, wild animals and wildflowers abound, pristine lakes and alpine meadows surprise and delight and the climbs (oh the climbs!) have stretched upwards into oblivion. 

My legs feel amazing… Mostly. Some days they power under me like two great locomotives, not bothered about up or down, just raring to move me through this landscape. Right now, for example, I have just finished walking 26 miles and am propped up on a log in a meadow waiting for my hiking companions whom I haven’t seen since I left camp this morning, I have been waiting here for an hour and I could well be here for another. I felt so good all day that I barely stopped for a break, other than to get water and quickly wolf down a sandwich, as a result I got massively ahead. Despite this marathon day, I honestly don’t feel tired. I am 13 miles to a road and a town and feel like I could easily walk that distance right now, the terrain would suit it, it’s mostly flat or down hill. 

However, all of this can change instaneously. Some days (or rather some parts of some days) you just cannot get yourself moving. You know those days? We all get them I am sure, but where as you at home might just be mildly underperfroming at work, being a little grumpy and off with food servers or flagrantly ignoring your children’s cries for attention, I am up at around thirteen thousand feet in either blasting sun, hail or soul-numbing rain, with the equivalent weight of a medium sized toddler on my back, trying to haul myself up and over some rocky/grassy extrusion and then safely descend the other side. Add to this the excitement of an imminent, or indeed present, lightning storm and you can see how I might struggle.  Whether this is because of diet, sleep, fluctuations in the earth’s gravity or just plain lethargy is at this point unknown. 

I have fourteen-hundred miles left to hike, I guess I best get to it. 

The pursuit of purity.

Hello all! I’m walking into Grant’s, NM and typing this to try and get my head away from the throbbing in my feet, the heat from the road and the infernal logistics of trying to be a pedestrian in a town built exclusively to service interstate 40. From where I walk into town (right by a dirty Mcdonald’s!) to the motel where I hope to sleep is 3 miles. All of this is on unshouldered highway  with 2 or 3 lanes of fast moving traffic in each direction. Those three miles in this journey of three thousand, I can almost guarantee, will be risky, scary and entirely forgettable.

There are trail purists that will aim to get complete and continuous footsteps from one border to another and good on them. I have aimed to do this on each of my previous hikes and ALWAYS I have failed somewhere near the end, be it for logistics, fire, river crossing or some other unforseen circumstance. Initially the gap bothers me but after some time I cease to care. I spent 5 months walking the PCT and because I had to miss 13 miles owing to a fire closure, does that make the other 2662 miles that I walked invalid? 

I love to look at a map, or even a GLOBE, and think of all the land I have covered on foot since my 21st birthday, some 9000 miles and counting now. It gives me more satisfaction than anything else I could have spent that time and money doing.

However, these trips come at a cost. My friendships and relationships back home, wherever that home is, are continously put on hold. As a result I can feel lonely and isolated but, being out here has taught me to deal with that too. That’s a cost I can cope with.

Last year two PCT hikers were killed in the name of purity,  mown down on a highway trying to walk around a fire closure. This seems to me to be an unjustifiable cost for the sake of maintaining a continous path. Not all roads are unwalkable, some, like the one I’m  on now, are lovely, some, however, are definitly not built for pedestrian travel and pose a risk to both pedestrian and driver.

 I would like to keep hiking until I die and, when that time comes, I am happy to die being eaten by a bear, being mauled until pulpy by a mountain lion or falling into some yawning chasm. If that happens, it will have been on my terms, at a location where I chose to spend my time because of its beauty and wonder, a place that has moulded and guided not just my life, but even the lives of those I have met over he years. I’d obviously be horrified to die under such circumstances, I, like most people, would like to live forever.  But to die in the pursuit of beauty has a rather nicer ring to it than getting blutered flat by some inattentive truck driver. 

I have hiked highways, hell, the Te Araroa in NZ was almost all road walking. I know exactly how it feels to walk on a hot, paved road, being intimidated by trucks and vehicles that don’t know how scary it is to be passed at high speed with inches to spare, walking for miles and miles with no access to fresh water through endless trash and accompanied only by the stench of rotting road kill. I must have close to 800 miles of road walking behind me and, do you know what? I don’t specifically remember any of it! So, with that in mind, if anyone wants to give a ride from the north end of grants to the motel six then please get in touch, I’ll be the tall smelly hiker in the once-blue shorts with a half eaten McDonald’s in one hand and with his thumb out.